Africa Travel Guide

Home to a number of diverse ecosystems, Africa is made up of vast expanses of sand dunes and semi-arid plains. Heavy masses of rugged mountains constitute East Africa, bordered by the grasslands of Savannah, making up Central Africa. In spite of being the biggest continent, Africa has the shortest coastline in the world. The rainforests of central Africa, along the Congo river basin, has a thriving wildlife native to the region including but not limited to African forest elephants, gorillas, the black colobus monkey, and the okapi. Africa covering almost 20%percent of the Earth’s total land area, is well connected by its network of freshwater lakes, hosting a diverse range of aquatic and terrestrial animal life and serving as watering holes for migrating wildebeest at the peak of Africa’s harsh summer.

Uniquely enough, Africa’s diversity is not just limited to its geography. Home to thousands of indigenous groups and cultures, and thousands of languages, Africa is truly a melting pot.

Travel to Africa, a land which is made by its contradictions, from endless stretches of sand and teeming rain forests to tribal settlements home, to a rich and generous people and old towns brimming with chaotic fervour. Listen to the beats of the Serengeti and hike trails to see jaw-dropping views that this abundant continent has to offer. Get to know the amazingly warm locals and enjoy heaping helpings of Potjiekos on this adventure of a lifetime!

While the Mother continent has much more to offer do not miss out on its national parks and game reserves.

Such diversity makes it hard to contain the entire essence of Africa into a few days. Whether you want to get up close to the big five (lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino) in a safari, explore historic towns, cosmopolitan cities or relax on fine sand beaches, Africa is sure to have something that can be ticked of your bucket list.

Home to one of the best national parks ( Kruger National Park) and remnants of a long fight for freedom, South Africa is a must visit. Kenya and Tanzania make the top of the list, boasting of vibrant indigenous tribes and the thrill of the migration of the wildebeests which can be experienced at the Serengeti and Masaai Mara National parks.

Destinations/Attractions

Travelling through Africa can be can be a mind blowing experience, be open to new things, get to know the locals, enjoy native foods and let time slow down while you discover all the things that this stunning continent has to offer.

Some popular destinations include Egypt, Kenya, Mauritius, Morocco, South Africa, Tanzania

While each country in the continent has lots to explore and best done one at a time, in all thoroughness, taking in to account time constraints and travel styles we can arrive at tailored solutions.

Egypt

Karnak temple Egypt

Morocco

morocco

Kenya

kenya 3

South Africa

table mountain south africa

Mauritius

mauritius

Tanzania

tanzania 5

Basics- Quick facts

Population – The second largest, as well as the second most populous country in the world, Africa  is estimated to have a population of 1.2 billion people accounting for 16.4 % of the world’s population.

Nigeria makes up 2.57 % of the world’s population at 195.88 million and is Africa’s most populated country. Nigeria’s largest city, Lagos is the most densely populated urban area with a population of 21 million. Next comes Cairo, Egypt with a residential population of 20.4 million.

Language – Home to the highest linguistic diversity in the world, Africa is home to 1500 to 2000 languages. English, Arabic and French are predominantly used throughout the continent, with Arabic being spoken by about 100 million people, with about 54 million speakers in Egypt alone. South Africa has the highest number of native English speakers.

The top languages to know while doing business or traversing the continent are Swahili, Amharic, Yoruba, Oromo, Hausa, Igbo, Zulu, Shona, Arabic,  Portuguese, French and English.

Currency – Among the different national currencies in circulation in this region, the notable are two, the West African CFA franc, used in 8 independent countries, and the Central African CFA franc, used in 6 other nations. The only local currency ranked among the most-traded in the international Forex market is the South African Rand.

USD is probably the easiest to use throughout the continent. While in places like a safari it is fine to pay or tip in USD, it is probably best to use local currency elsewhere and in local markets.

Interesting facts

As the second-largest continent in the world, Africa makes up approximately 22% of the Earth’s total land area and 6% of Earth’s total surface and has the shortest coastline.

The longest river in the world, the Nile, is located in Africa, covering eleven countries. It spans 4,132 miles and is known as the ‘Father of Life’.

All of Africa, except for Ethiopia and Liberia, were colonized by foreign powers during the ‘Scramble for Africa’. The ‘Scramble for Africa’ occurred during the period of New Imperialism, between 1881 and 1914.

Africa is home to a massive 1.2 billion people, Africa’s rich heritage teaching them to be generous, welcoming, and hospitable. Explore a few of those cultures on a visit to

Egypt – Fondly known as the Mother of the world, Egypt is home to spectacular old-world monuments, remains which narrate of the once most powerful civilization in the world and captivating landscapes – borders which open in to the Red Sea, the waters of the Nile know as ‘Father of Llife’ and the sprawling desert.

Kenya – Offering an endless array of activities for the wildlife enthusiast and the adventurer Kenya tops the list for the most filled destination. With breathtakingly diverse landscapes and amazing food and deeply rooted cultures, Kenya has something in store for everyone.

Mauritius – A tropical paradise with stretches of sandy shores, turquoise waters, exotic flora and fauna, as well as vast rainforests, the perfect place to have a laid back vacation and indulge in tropical vacations.

Morocco – While no words can justify the wonder that is Moroccan food, if that’s not a reason enough to visit this spectacular country, also know, it is home to the surreal Sahara desert, striking landscapes and a colourful and vibrant culture.

South Africa – Home to dramatic landscapes and diverse cultures, the rainbow nation is home to one of the most intriguing histories of the recent past.

Tanzania – With close to 4 million animals within its borders, Tanzania is home to 12 national parks and 13 reserves. Do not miss out on the most iconic Safari experience in Africa – the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater.

Food for thought

Over half of the population of Africa is under 25 years old, which makes it the youngest population in the world.

Africa is home to four of the 5 fastest animals of the world – the cheetah, the wildebeest, the lion, and the Thomson’s gazelle. All of these animals can run at speeds above 50 miles per hour, with the cheetah reaching a top speed of about 70 miles per hour, the deadliest animal in all of Africa is the Hippo.

Food & Culture

Believed to be the ‘Cradle of Humanity’- home to the first man and hosting many thriumphant civilizations of the ancient world as well as diasporas from the world over, Africa is a nation with gripping histories and cultures.

Religion – Deeply rooted in faith and spirituality, African society is influenced by religion, in all aspects of lifestyle, arts, culture and tradition.

Traditionally, Africa encompasses a variety of indigenous faiths, passed down from generation to generation, employing the technique of oral transmission to communicate its beliefs. Through prayers, offerings and sacrifices, traditional African faiths strive to maintain a balanced relationship with the cosmos.

Today Africa’s population predominantly consists of people, who practise Islam and Christianity; both of which came to Africa with colonization. As a result, Christianity and Islam in the continent of Africa have adapted to into its fold aspects of indigenous African faith and spirituality.

Other faiths which are practised on the continent are Hinduism, Baha’i Faith, Judaism, Chinese folk religions, and Jainism.

Art and Architecture – Art in Africa (as anywhere else in the world, is symbolic of their believes and understanding of the universe), largely reflects the importance of religion in the everyday life of the African population. Ancestor worship, spirits, magic, and other aspects of the religion are depicted in these arts.

Sculptures, masks, gold work, Jewellery, textiles, pottery, basketry and painting, were forms of art the Africans mastered.

Contemporary artists in Africa have evolved out of the country’s recent experience of political change and upheaval. Artists from the 70s onward, who have seen the struggle for the independence, produce works of art dealing with a whole range of issues such as national identity, economic disparity, and public health – in a varying array of styles and mediums.

From the Pyramids and the Great Sphinx of the north, to and tombs and monuments dotting the West, Africa is home to majestic masterpieces which speak of illustrious natives, and monumental feats of construction which show that Africa’s vernacular styles were predetermined by climate and natural resources.

Although through time, Africa has faced a barrage of influences, from Romans to Arabs from the Islamic world to the colonial powers of the British and the French, it has managed to produce styles that reflect local African building traditions, climate and natural resources.

Contemporary designs from Africa is seeking to transcend all boundaries of innovation, propelled by a new generation of youth who have been educated in the West while striving to remain true to the available resources at hand and unique climatic factors that Africa has to offer.

Customs and Traditions – The African Continent is home to a total of 54 countries, each with diverse cultures, which however overlap occasionally. This diversity not only varies from nation to nation but within different indigenous communities as well. Each ethnic group is tight-knit and have their own traditions, rites, arts, and sometimes even language.

Africa is home to around 1500 to 2000 known languages and a varied population of religions.While a vast majority of the population are of indigenous origins, colonization has seen to it that there have been huge influences by Arab, British, French, Belgian and Portuguese cultures, some even settling down here, in the ‘cradle of Humankind’. Southern parts of the continent are home to European settlers, while South Asians have settled Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa,making Africa a melting pot of cultures.

Food – An amalgamation of native core ingredients, spices and distinct cooking styles, African cuisine is colourful, bold and complex.

North African cuisine is probably the most complex of all, an irresistibly perfect synergy between the best of Mediterranean cuisine, Oriental spices and Arab influences.

Do not miss out on tasting classics such as kebabs, couscous or pilaf and the sublime baklava.

The meals of South Africa are closer to home, with a heavy Asian influence, get ready to enjoy lots of stews and curries, topped with a generous serving of rice.

Just as exotic as its rainforests, Central African cuisine remains free from external influences and gives you a taste of Africa before colonization. The basic ingredients are plantains and cassava.

Favourites include spinach stew, groundnut stew, Bambara – a porridge of rice, peanut butter and sugar and chicken and beef stew.

Water has a very strong cultural significance in many West African nations and is often the first thing an African host will offer guests. Palm wine (usually sold in sweet or sour varieties) and Millet beer are common beverages.

Clothing – Clothing in Africa is as diverse, vibrant and unique as it can get.

Different tribes throughout the continent pride themselves on their native styles, adorning them on special occasions.

The varied styles and type of clothes worn (yes, even the fabric) is indicative of the user’s standing in society and their wealth. It is invariably understood that once in traditional garb, you speak for your community.

Although over time there have been external influences, the evolution of clothing cannot be traced along a timeline due to the absence of formal documentation.

How to go?

Following are the major airports for internation travel to popular destinations in Africa

Egypt – Cairo International Airport, Sharm el-Sheikh International Airport,Hurghada International Airport, Luxor International Airport

Kenya – Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (Nairobi)

Mauritius – Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Mauritius Airport

Morocco – Casablanca Mohammed V Airport, Marrakech Menara Airport,Rabat-Sale Airport, Tangier Ibn Battouta Airport,

South Africa – O.R. Tambo International Airport (Johannesburg), Durban International Airport, Cape Town International Airport

Tanzania – Kilimanjaro International Airport (46km/29mi east of Arusha), Julius Nyerere International Airport (13km/8mi southwest of Dar-es-Salaam)

Best time to go

Please bear in mind Africa is a vast continent, with many geographical and climatic variations even within its borders, below are a few pointers.

North Africa

The seasons in North Africa ( Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Lybia and Egypt) are usually as follows

Summer: June to September

Winter: November to March

*November to march – best for – camel safari (Sahara)

Southern Africa

The seasons in Southern Africa (South Africa,Lwsotho,Eswatini, Namibia,Botswana, Zimbabwe, and parts of Mosambique) are usually as follows

Summer: April to October

Winter: November to March

*April – October – best for – safari

*November – March – best for South Africa

East Africa

The seasons in East Africa (Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan, Mauritius and Seychelles, Madagascar) are usually as follows

Summer: July to September

Winter: April to June

*July – September – best for – safari destinations (Serengeti, Maasi Mara)

*April to June – avoid – the coast and the rainforests of Rwanda and Uganda, which experiences torrential rain and frequent flooding.

West Africa

The seasons in West Africa ( Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria) are usually as follows

Summer: November to April

Winter: July to September

*November – April – best for – beachgoers.

*July – September / September and October–best for – landlocked countries

Approximate Costs

Considering mid-range travel, $100 – $250 is the range of the daily budget

Food: food generally costs less than $35 usually within the range of $20 to $30.

Additional drinks cost about $4.50.

Stay: The average accommodation would be about $45 /$50 varying across regions within a range of $75 to $200.

Local transport: With an average of $30, rides on the local transport system are within a range of $16 to $40.

Sightseeing: Seeing the city sights and experiencing local activities would average around $60 – $100.

Safaris range from $800 – $1000.

*Please note that Africa is a vast continent and costs generally vary significantly from regionally or from country to country, with countries like Seychelles, Kenya, South Africa and Zambia having higher costs while countries like Egypt and Zimbabwe are a lot less priced, with regions Morocco and Zambia being mid-range.

*the pricing of the safaris will peak at the time of the great migration.

*Costs are mentioned in terms of USD.

*Costs mentioned are the average rates per day per person unless specified otherwise.

Visa requirements

Countries which require prior approval for visa 

Egypt – There is no provision for E-visa or Visa on arrival for Indians as of now (unless travelling in a large group). Visitors must hold passports that are valid for at least 8 months from the date of arrival to Egypt. A tourist visa for Egypt is allowed for 90 days. However, a tourist can stay only up to 30 days from the arrival date in Egypt.

Kenya – Indian citizens are eligible to apply for eVisa. The Applicant should have a passport valid for at least 6 months from the date of application for the visa. The processing time required is 5 to 7 working days. The visa is valid for 3 months.

Morocco – A tourist visa is issued with a validity period of up to 90 days; all travellers must have a passport that is valid for at least six months.

South Africa – Apply in person for a visa, make sure that your passport is valid for a minimum of 30 days from departure. Processing the visa may take up to 5 working days to 3 weeks. A tourist visa is valid for a duration of 90 days.

Countries which give visa on arrival 

Tanzania – Indian citizens are eligible to obtain a visa on entry. Multiple entry travel visa is valid for a maximum of 12 months to 120 days provided that a single stay won’t exceed 90 days and the applicant’s passport should be valid for 15 or more months from the date of issue. The processing time required is 2 to 3 working days.

Other

Mauritius – A visa is not required for an Indian citizen for a duration of up to 60 days. The applicant’s passport should be valid for a minimum of 6 months from the date of issue.

Top things to do

With lots of thrilling experiences to choose from, the African continent can be overwhelming for the first time traveller. Here’s a few which top our list

Cape of Good Hope – The southwesternmost point on the African continent, offers amazing views of the ocean and amazing trails for a walk. Not too mention superb birdwatching opportunities.

The iconic Table Mountain is a must visit, a flat-topped mountain overlooking, Cape Town. Offering spectacular panoramas of the city and the waterfront.

Kruger National Park – One of Africa’s largest national parks, sprawling across 200 acres it is home to a multitude of historic and archaeological sites and offers diverse wildlife experiences.

The Apartheid Museum calls for a must, to understand the spirit that is Africa.Home to exhibits which speaks of Africa’s recent past of segregation and oppression.

Black River Gorges National Park – The largest of the islands natural parks, its forested rolling hills are home to a large number of native species. Explore the park to find endless stretches of forest cover, deep gorges and clear cascading waters.

Casela World of Adventures, primarily a wildlife reserve, this scenic park offers a wild range of activities including open jeep safaris and elephant rides. Home to deer, wild boars, hares, macaque monkeys, mongoose and fruit bats as well as tigers and leopards, be sure to visit and experience wildlife in their natural best.

Tamarin Waterfalls – Spend the day hiking or canoeing, swim in the lagoon at the base of the waterfalls and enjoy a classic picnic with grand views of the canyon.

Sugar Museum – Reminiscent of the Sugar rush that shook the island nation, the museum manages to capture 250 years worth of stories. End your 1.5 hr heritage tour with a sugar and rum tasting session.

The highest snow peaked mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro, is an inactive volcano bordering Kenya and Tanzania. At its foot is a forest reserve, home to buffaloes, elephants, leopards, elands, and lions. Also interact with the locals to understand local tradition, culture and cuisine.

Tanzania National Parks and Reserves – Tanzania has dedicated one-third of its country to the protection of its wildlife. Among a number of these reserves, Selous Game Reserve is the largest while the famed migration spectacle takes place in Serengeti National Park.

Tanzania Great Rift Valley Lakes – The unforgettably scenic rift valley features hot springs, geysers, and lakes, as well as volcanoes, some of which are still active. Home to a diverse bird life, these valleys and lakes are often surrounded by national parks.

Tanzania has a rich history and is also home a large number of intriguing historical and cultural sites. Most of these sites house long history and traditions of the Tanzanians dating back to the 13th Century. Some of the most significant historical sites are Olduvai Gorge, The House of Wonders, Kilwa Ruins, Stone Town, old Arab Fort and the National Museum and the House of Culture.

The Masai Mara – Ask any wildlife enthusiast and they will tell you that The Masai Mara is the place to be. Spot the big five (the African lion, the African leopard, the African elephant, the Cape buffalo, and the rhino) and in the month of October witness the annual migration of wildebeest, from a hot air balloon.

Lamu – One of Kenya’s oldest towns, it’s a great place to explore narrow winding streets for a glimpse of the local lifestyle.

Lake Nakuru National Park – Surrounded by wooded and bushy grassland on the banks of Lake Nakuru, best known for its flock of flamingos, the park is also home to white rhinos, warthogs, giraffes, hippos, ostriches, and lions.

The second highest peak in Africa, Mount Kenya, and its surrounding wilderness – pristine lakes, tarns, glaciers, dense forest, mineral springs and a selection of rare and endangered species of animals – is a designated World Heritage Site, hosting a range of activities such as mountain climbing, camping and caving.

Samburu, Shaba and Buffalo Springs National Reserve are three reserves bordering dry landscapes the central region of northern Kenya. The Ewaso Ngiro River runs through the Reserves and attracts a large number of elephant, giraffe, leopard, zebra, blue-legged ostriches. The highlight of visiting this region is getting to interact with the local Samburu people.

Itinerary Suggestion by destination expert

Egypt is a country immersed in culture and history, not to mention adventure. Explore the land of the Pharaohs, cruise down the Nile and go back in time to discover the secrets of one of the most prosperous civilizations of the ancient world in a span of a week or two. (7days/14 days)

Blessed with an abundance of nature’s best, Kenya host endless stretches of national reserves where the most endangered wildlife, from lions and cheetahs to elephants and black rhino can be observed in their pristine homes. (7 days/11 days)

Famed for its turquoise blue waters and fine white sand the coast of Mauritius makes for a dream vacation. ( 5 to 7 days)

Neighbouring Morocco, known for its generous hospitality, and its vibrant culture, can be best explored within a span of 8 to 15 days.

Discover the diversity of an entire world in one single country on your travels to South Africa.(12 days/15 days)

Home to Africa’s best national parks and tallest peak not to mention an amazing coast, Tanzania is full of adventure. (6 days/11 days)

A combination of these countries can also be visited

Egypt – Morocco: 15/20 days

South Africa – Kenya:15 days/20 days

Kenya – Tanzania: 10 days/15 days

Tanzania Safari experience: 7 days

Kenya Safari experience: 8 days

Kruger Experience: 4 days

The duration and the combination of destinations of these vacations can be tweaked according to interests and convenience.

Travel Tips

Pack consciously. Less is more.

It does get cold, bring warm clothing.

Remember that many African countries are quite conservative in their dress, so make sure to pack clothing that is appropriate for the country/culture you are travelling through.

Bring a head torch. They may look funny, but they are very useful when you need to do something and there is a power cut.

A small first aid kit is always useful

Eat local.

Always barter at markets to get a fair price, but remember that for most of these people, the market is their only source of income.

Never carry all of your money or cards in one place. Spread it out into different pockets, a money belt, the lining in your bag, etc. You don’t want to be left with nothing if your wallet gets stolen.

Make sure that you drink enough! It is very easy to get dehydrated when you are travelling – you are often walking much more than you realize and will likely be sweating!

Bring mosquito repellent and make sure you know if the countries you are visiting have malaria.

Check the vaccination requirements for each country – especially for yellow fever, as you will have to show proof of it to enter certain countries.

Get travel insurance for medical expenses, lost luggage and flights.

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